England Were Predictable, Says German Student Who Helped Plot World Cup Heartbreak

4-4-2 formation hurt the Three Lions, says Nopp...
A PhD student in Germany who was among the students who came up with the analysis that enabled the destruction of England during the World Cup 2010, has revealed that the Three Lions were shown up in their predictable style of play.

55 students from the German Sports University in Cologne, headed by Stephan Nopp, spent almost a 1000 hours analysing England prior to the World Cup.

Their findings appeared to have proven to be pivotal in Germany thumping England 4-1 in South Africa, as assistant manager Oliver Bierhoff even publicly thanked the students for their efforts that led to the dissection of their opponents on the pitch.

"The way England played against Germany was like we expected," Nopp told The Telegraph.

"The German coaching staff knew what would happen when England got the ball — we got it right. We began analysing all 31 teams after they qualified for the World Cup so, for England, we started nearly one year before the game.

"We particularly focused our mind to England after the draw in December but the hottest period was after it was fixed to play them. Since then we worked nearly 24 hours a day to find the key to beat them. For the year before the World Cup, it was about 15 hours a week."

The predictability was shown up in the play to the midfielders, as Nopp said: "For England, the ball went very often through the centre of midfield to [Frank] Lampard, [Gareth] Barry or [Steven] Gerrard, who had moved in from the left. Gerrard had a lot of action in the centre although he should be the left midfielder.

"This was very, very significant for us as we could predict what would happen when England had the ball. From this, we could also predict how Wayne Rooney would attack a defender so we could find a way to stop him."

In the meantime, Nopp maintained that the strategy of playing long balls - employed by all three of the Three Lions' opponents during the group stage - was a significant piece in completing the jigsaw that eventually portrayed a 4-1 score line.

"This was also very important," he said. "In the group matches, less than 10 per cent of Germany’s passes were what we would call long or uncontrolled. Against Australia, it was just two per cent. However, we upped that ratio to 30 per cent against England."

Apart from matters on the pitch, the students also concerned themselves with that which took place off it, so as to gain a clear understanding of a player's psychology during the tournament.

"It was important to understand the motivation and the pressures on your opponents," Nopp said. "It helps to know what to expect. We read all the English media and were also well aware of the issues between John Terry and the coach [Fabio Capello]."

Following the conclusion of the tournament, which saw Germany come in third place as Spain walked away with the crown, a post-analysis has been done to note the differences in style of play and how it affected those who employed it.

"It seems also that the top players will change their position," said Nopp. "Some years ago you could find these players mostly as centre forward, but if you look at Arjen Robben, David Villa and Thomas Muller the trend is that the player will start from the wing. They are important for assists and for goals.

"Another important aspect was the counter attacks. Switching from defence to offence is getting more and more important.

"The teams who were variable and adaptable were the best. The teams who played a fixed 4-4-2 system, like England, had disappointing tournaments."

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